Government by a single person, as opposed to a ruling clique. Rule tends to be maintained by intimidation, use of secret police and the armed forces, and by economic control. These encourage the persistence of social inequalities and elitism, and halt political and social development.
Some dictatorships, particularly in African nations, are based on traditional values where the structure of oppression already exists. The dictator merely diversifies the instruments of control, strongest of which may be the emphasis on traditional values and institutions. Most dictators do not appoint delegates based on their intelligence, but rather based on their lack of intelligence, lack of character, lack of constitution and courage, as these are the people who will neither challenge nor defy a dictator's rule. In its extreme form, dictatorship may become tyrannical, resulting in many excesses.
Despotism has been recognized as a form of government since the era of classical Greek philosophy when it was applied particularly to practices in Persia and the East. Despotism has been recorded through history to modern times and found an especially vivid expression in the absolutist monarchies in France and elsewhere in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.